A narrow path to victory was emerging for Barack Obama as his intensely tight battle with Mitt Romney went down to the wire Tuesday, the long-awaited culmination of one of the hardest-fought presidential campaigns in recent U.S. history.
Results from the critical battleground states, especially Ohio, Florida and Virginia, were still unsettled by mid-evening. Astonishingly, some voters were still waiting in long lines late Tuesday to cast their ballots in the so-called Sunshine State, delaying results.
But Obama did win New Hampshire, the first of the seven battlegrounds to be claimed by the president. He also took Pennsylvania, another state considered still in play, and visited by his Republican challenger just hours earlier in a last-ditch effort to snatch it away.
The high turnout of African-American voters in Pennsylvania, reportedly even higher than it was in 2008, was thought to have played a critical role in the president's victory there.
Romney, however, was still leading the popular vote and the electoral college, but that edge was tentative without results from the other major battlegrounds.
Under the American system, presidential candidates compete not for popular vote, but for the 270 electoral college votes up for grabs stateside. Those votes are assigned based on a state's population and representation in Congress.
Seven states, representing 89 electoral college votes of the 270 needed to win the White House, are considered battlegrounds: Colorado, Iowa, Wisconsin, Ohio, Virginia, Florida and New Hampshire.
Nevada and North Carolina were also in play for both the president and Romney.
Obama, elected four years ago on a message of hope and change, is hoping for a second term by winning most of those states.
Romney says the president has failed miserably to deliver on his heady promises of 2008, assailing him in particular for his handling of America's enduring economic woes.